No. 5 seed Indiana women’s basketball defeated No. 1 seed Ohio State 70-62 in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament behind double-digit scoring from all five of the team’s starters. With the win, the Hoosiers will advance to the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis for the first time since 2002, when they were ultimately crowned conference champions.
Throughout the season, head coach Teri Moren has emphasized “sharing the sugar” offensively, making sure every Indiana player contributes and gets touches to help the team win. As a result, five Indiana players entered the game averaging over 11 points per game.
“(I’m) proud of the fact that we shared the sugar with 20 assists on 24 field goals,” Moren said. “It was a great collective effort by the Hoosiers today and (I’m) just really proud of how these guys showed up and executed.”
Across the team’s three tournament games, Indiana has maintained its balanced attack. In each game, there was one player who stood out and led the team in scoring, but the other Hoosiers were never far behind.
On Saturday against Ohio State, graduate student guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary scored 16 points to lead Indiana but was closely followed in scoring by graduate student guard Ali Patberg with 15 points.
In addition to Patberg and Cardaño-Hillary — the latter of whom also grabbed 11 rebounds to record her first double-double of the season — three other Hoosiers scored in double figures. Senior guard Grace Berger and junior forward Mackenzie Holmes had 10 and 12 points, respectively.
Sophomore guard Chloe Moore-McNeil added 11 points, tied for a career-high, in only the second start of her career. She was pressed into the starting lineup after senior forward Aleksa Gulbe missed the beginning of the game due to a non-COVID illness, Moren said.
“I just love how she came out, it was like her hair was on fire,” Moren said of Moore-McNeil. “She was getting to the rim and being aggressive in our motion. Lex was out, and we had no problem knowing that Chloe was going to come in and help us.”
Despite missing the beginning of the game and only playing 14 total minutes, Gulbe scored 6 points to help Indiana advance to its second-ever appearance in the Big Ten title game.
Because Gulbe did not see her normal workload, sophomore forward Arielle Wisne stepped in to make up some of the missing minutes. Wisne only played 29 total minutes across 26 regular-season games this season, but through three Big Ten Tournament games, she has logged 12 minutes.
Wisne hasn’t scored in the three tournament games, but she has filled her role effectively and made plays to help Indiana keep winning. A first-quarter block by Wisne on Saturday brought the Indiana fans in Gainbridge Fieldhouse to their feet, and when she checked out of the game moments later, she was rewarded with a standing ovation for her play.
“That's probably the biggest block of her life, and the fact that she blocked it and was able to secure it,” Moren said. “This is a group — again, Nicki said it the best, that they just fall in love with each other's success.”
The win means Indiana advances to the Big Ten Championship at 4 p.m. Sunday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Indiana will enter the game looking to defeat Iowa and win its second-ever Big Ten title.